Ten years have passed since the POCSO Act 2012 (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences), legislated in consequence of India’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, came into effect on November 14, 2012. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development led the introduction of the POCSO Act in 2012.
- The Act was designed to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
- Special courts: Provide for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offenses.
- Amendment: The Act was amended in 2019 for enhancing the punishments for specific offenses in order to deter abusers and ensure a dignified childhood.
About POCSO Act
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, (POCSO Act) and its matching rules were legislated with the ideal of guarding children against a slew of sexual offences and introducing child-friendly judicial mechanisms for dealing with similar offenses.
The purpose of this special law is to address offenses of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, that were either not specifically defined or not adequately penalised.
Under the POCSO Act, 2012, and under several vittles of the IPC, whoever commits a penetrative sexual assault on a child — anyone below 18 times of age — can be “ locked for a term which isn’t lower than seven times but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to (a) fine.”
Indeed, if the girl is 16 years old, she’s considered a “child” under the POCSO Act, so her concurrence doesn’t count, and any sexual intercourse is treated as rape, therefore opening it up to strict discipline.
Significance of POSCO Act:
- Gender-neutral nature of law: The National Crime Records Bureau has not published data on male and female victims separately(Chhattisgarh)
- Male child victims accounted for about eight in every 1,000 POCSO cases (0.8%).
- It endorses society’s apprehension that the sexual exploitation of male children is a serious issue.
- Sufficient general awareness to report cases of sexual exploitation of children not only by individuals but also by institutions.
- Non-reporting has been made a specific offense under the POCSO Act.
- The storage of child pornography material has been made a new offense.
- Offence of ‘sexual assault: It has been defined in explicit terms (with increased minimum punishment) unlike an abstract definition of ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’ in the Indian Penal Code.
Judicial stance on POCSO Act:
High courts around the nation: It is acknowledged that adolescent relationships are common, and that making such behavior illegal harms both parties.
State Rep. v. Vijayalakshmi (2021): Adolescent romance is a crucial developmental sign for teenagers’ self-identity, functioning, and capacity for closeness, according to a High Court citation.
Indeed, though the National Crime Records Bureau has not published data on manly and womanly victims independently, in Chhattisgarh, manly child victims were reckoned to account for about eight of every 1,000 POCSO cases (0.8). Though the reported number isn’t large, it still endorses society’s apprehension that the sexual exploitation of male children is also a serious issue that has gone largely unreported. There’s sufficient general mindfulness now to report cases of sexual exploitation of children not only by individuals but also by institutions, as non-reporting has been made a specific offense under the POCSO Act. Further, the offense of “sexual assault” has been defined in unequivocal terms (with increased minimal discipline), unlike an abstract description of “outraging the modesty of a woman” in the Indian Penal Code.
Challenges on the ground
Amidst the debate on the poor conviction rate under POCSO and the lowering of the age of consent from 18 to 16 (though rejected by the Central government), it’s worth assessing its impact on the ground.
Although there is a provision for recording statements using audio-videotape methods and a Supreme Court decision on landing and preserving the scene of heinous crimes using audio-videotape methods, The airman design has not yet been implemented nationwide, according to Shafhi Mohammad vs. The State of Himachal Pradesh (2018).
The admissibility of substantiation recorded using any audio-videotape techniques will always be an issue in the absence of a suitable framework to ensure the integrity of electronic substantiation. Despite the fact that the prosecutrix’s medical examination is carried out in accordance with the norms of the CrPC, a girl child’s medical examination is carried out by a womanish counselor ( as specified in the POCSO Act).
Indeed, so, and as observed by the Supreme Court of India, there are cases where the banned two-cutlet test is still in use. Further, there have been no attempts to upgrade the FSLs in the States to expedite the examination of shows.
Though the age determination of a juvenile delinquent is guided by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, no similar provision exists under the POCSO Act for juvenile victims. The Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh vs. the State of Haryana (2013) held that the given statutory provision should also be the basis to help determine the age of a child who’s a victim of a crime. Further, the time commanded to complete the disquisition of rape (as in the CrPC, without an analogous provision in the POCSO Act) is two months. Though the ultimate goal is to expedite the disquisition, it has consequences in that it has put significant pressure on the IOs to ever submit a charge distance in two months, regardless of the stage of the disquisition. Therefore, unfortunately, the focus is largely on the completion of the dissertation in two months, irrespective of quality.
Related Constitutional Provisions to POCSO Act:
- Article 21: Every child has the right to live with dignity the right to personal liberty and the right to privacy
- Article 14: the right to equality
- Article 15: right against discrimination
- Article 23 & 24: right against exploitation
- Article 21A: Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age.
- Article 39(f): Obligation on the State to ensure that:
- Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity
- Childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Conclusion POCSO Act
It’s time for a review of the way the POCSO Act is enforced to see how far it has helped victims of sexual exploitation and what further requirements need to be put in place to ensure justice.